For thirty years, my research has shown that the view you adopt for yourself profoundly affects the way you lead your life.
The Fixed Mindset
- Believing that your qualities are carved in stone creates an urgency to prove yourself over and over.
- If you have only a certain amount of intelligence, a certain personality, and a certain moral character—well, then you’d better prove that you have a healthy dose of them.
- It simply wouldn’t do to look or feel deficient in these most basic characteristics.
This Growth Mindset
- Based on the belief that your basic qualities are things you can cultivate through your efforts, your strategies, and help from others.
- Although people may differ in every which way—in their initial talents and aptitudes, interests, or temperaments—everyone can change and grow through application and experience.
The passion for stretching yourself and sticking to it, even (or especially) when it’s not going well, is the hallmark of the growth mindset.
In a fixed mindset risk and effort are two things that might reveal your inadequacies and show that you were not up to the task.
Inside The Mindsets
There are two meanings to ability, not one: a fixed ability that needs to be proven, and a changeable ability that can be developed through learning.
For children with the growth mindset, success is about stretching themselves. It’s about becoming smarter.
CEOs face another dilemma. They can choose short-term strategies that boost the company’s stock and make themselves look like heroes. Or they can work for long-term improvement—risking Wall Street’s disapproval as they lay the foundation for the health and growth of the company over the longer haul.
People in a growth mindset don’t just seek challenge, they thrive on it. The bigger the challenge, the more they stretch.
On exams and testing:
- An assessment at one point in time has little value for understanding someone’s ability, let alone their potential to succeed in the future.
- The idea that one evaluation can measure you forever is what creates the urgency for those with the fixed mindset.
In the growth mindset, failure can be a painful experience. But it doesn’t define you. It’s a problem to be faced, dealt with, and learned from.
When we taught people the growth mindset, it changed the way they reacted to their depressed mood. The worse they felt, the more motivated they became and the more they confronted the problems that faced them.
When people believe their basic qualities can be developed, failures may still hurt, but failures don’t define them. And if abilities can be expanded—if change and growth are possible—then there are still many paths to success.
Malcolm Gladwell, the author and New Yorker writer, has suggested that as a society we value natural, effortless accomplishment over achievement through effort.
Even geniuses have to work hard for their achievements.
The idea of trying and still failing—of leaving yourself without excuses—is the worst fear within the fixed mindset,
Billie Jean King says it’s all about what you want to look back and say. I agree with her. You can look back and say, “I could have been…,” polishing your unused endowments like trophies. Or you can look back and say, “I gave my all for the things I valued.”
People can also have different mindsets in different areas. I might think that my artistic skills are fixed but that my intelligence can be developed.
The growth mindset allows people to value what they’re doing regardless of the outcome.
The growth mindset also doesn’t mean everything that can be changed should be changed. We all need to accept some of our imperfections, especially the ones that don’t really harm our lives or the lives of others.
Grow your mindset:
- Picture your brain forming new connections as you meet the challenge and learn.
- Seek constructive criticism.
Next time you feel low, put yourself in a growth mindset—think about learning, challenge, confronting obstacles. Think about effort as a positive, constructive force, not as a big drag.
Business: Mindest & Leadership
Enron scandal — But by putting complete faith in talent, Enron did a fatal thing: It created a culture that worshiped talent, thereby forcing its employees to look and act extraordinarily talented.
Successful leaders surround themselves with the most able people they can find, they look squarely at their own mistakes and deficiencies, and they ask frankly what skills they and the company will need in the future.
Fixed-mindset leaders, like fixed-mindset people in general, live in a world where some people are superior and some are inferior. They must repeatedly affirm that they are superior, and the company is simply a platform for this.
When leaders feel they are inherently better than others, they may start to believe that the needs or feelings of the lesser people can be ignored.
When bosses become controlling and abusive, they put everyone into a fixed mindset. This means that instead of learning, growing, and moving the company forward, everyone starts worrying about being judged.
As growth-minded leaders, they start with a belief in human potential and development—both their own and other people’s. Instead of using the company as a vehicle for their greatness, they use it as an engine of growth—for themselves, the employees, and the company as a whole.
Create an organisation that prizes the development of ability—and watch the leaders emerge.
People who work in growth-mindset organisations have far more trust in their company and a much greater sense of empowerment, ownership, and commitment.
Supervisors in growth-mindset companies rated their employees as more collaborative and more committed to learning and growing. And as more innovative. And as having far greater management potential. These are all things that make a company more agile and more likely to stay in the vanguard.
Grow your mindset
- Are your colleagues just judging you or are they helping you develop?
- Could you profit more from the feedback you get?
Relationships: Mindsets in Love
People with the fixed mindset expect everything good to happen automatically. It’s not that the partners will work to help each other solve their problems or gain skills.
In the growth mindset, there may still be that exciting initial combustion, but people in this mindset don’t expect magic. They believe that a good, lasting relationship comes from effort and from working through inevitable differences.
The trick is to acknowledge each other’s limitations, and build from there.
- Friendships, like partnerships, are places where we have a chance to enhance each other’s development, and to validate each other.
- Both are important. Friends can give each other the wisdom and courage to make growth-enhancing decisions, and friends can reassure each other of their fine qualities.
- But it is often them, trying to build themselves up by establishing their superiority and your inferiority.
- It could be by actively putting you down, or it could be by the careless way they treat you. Either way, you are a vehicle for (and a casualty of) confirming their worth.
Your failures and misfortunes don’t threaten other people’s self-esteem. Ego-wise, it’s easy to be sympathetic to someone in need. It’s your assets and your successes that are problems for people who derive their self-esteem from being superior.
Bullying & The Fixed Mindset
- Bullying is about judging. It’s about establishing who is more worthy or important.
- There’s a big dose of fixed-mindset thinking in the bullies: Some people are superior and some are inferior.
- They have been cruelly reduced and they wish to reduce in return.
- Bullies judge. Victims take it in.
Grow your mindset
- After a rejection, do you feel judged, bitter, and vengeful? Or do you feel hurt, but hopeful of forgiving, learning, and moving on?
- Problems can be a vehicle for developing greater understanding and intimacy.
- Move beyond thinking about fault and blame all the time.
Next time you’re venturing into a social situation, think about these things: how social skills are things you can improve and how social interactions are for learning and enjoyment, not judgment. Keep practicing this.
People with a growth mindset are also constantly monitoring what’s going on, but their internal monologue is not about judging themselves and others in this way.
Certainly they’re sensitive to positive and negative information, but they’re attuned to its implications for learning and constructive action:
- What can I learn from this?
- How can I improve?
- How can I help my partner do this better?
The key to changing your mindset is to change the internal monologue from a judging one to a growth-oriented one.
e.g. Go for it. Make it happen. Develop your skills. Pursue your dream.
e.g. Observe. Learn. Improve. Become a better athlete.
New research shows that the brain is more like a muscle—it changes and gets stronger when you use it.
- When you learn new things, these tiny connections in the brain actually multiply and get stronger.
- The more that you challenge your mind to learn, the more your brain cells grow.
- Then, things that you once found very hard or even impossible—like speaking a foreign language or doing algebra—seem to become easy.
- The result is a stronger, smarter brain.
The Growth-Mindset Step. Think about your goal and think about what you could do to stay on track toward achieving it. What steps could you take to help yourself succeed? What information could you gather?
Think of something you need to do, something you want to learn, or a problem you have to confront. What is it? Now make a concrete plan. When will you follow through on your plan? Where will you do it? How will you do it? Think about it in vivid detail.
Sometimes after I have a setback, I go through the process of talking to myself about what it means and how I plan to deal with it.
When dealing with failure — think about the resources at your disposal and how you could use them.
But putting yourself in a growth mindset, what are some new ways you could think and some steps you could take?
e.g. What are some new ways you could think about effort? About learning? And how could you act on this new thinking in your work?
It’s a long time before you begin to enjoy putting in effort and a long time before you begin to think in terms of learning. Instead of seeing your time at the bottom of the corporate ladder as an insult, you slowly see that you can learn a lot at the bottom that could help you greatly on your rise to the top.
Ultimately, a growth mindset allows people to carry forth not judgments and bitterness, but new understanding and new skills.
“What did you learn today?” “What mistake did you make that taught you something?” “What did you try hard at today?”
You talk about skills you have today that you didn’t have yesterday because of the practice you put in.
“What can I learn from this? What will I do next time when I’m in this situation?” It’s a learning process—not a battle between the bad you and the good you.
Create a Fixed Mindset Persona
Give it a name
- I called mine Cartman — a lazy, bumbling slob, sitting in the corner of my brain
Recognise his/her voice
- Your fixed-mindset persona might fly in and offer its advice: “Give it up. It’s just making you feel frustrated and ashamed. Do something easier.”
- He makes comments like ‘You don’t have the ability to grasp difficult concepts. You have reached your limit.’ ”
You’re in touch with your triggers and you’re excruciatingly aware of your fixed-mindset persona and what it does to you. It has a name. What happens now? Educate it. Take it on the journey with you.
If you’re on the verge of stepping out of your comfort zone, be ready to greet it when it shows up and warns you to stop. Thank it for its input, but then tell it why you want to take this step and ask it to come along with you: “Look, I know this may not work out, but I’d really like to take a stab at it. Can I count on you to bear with me?”
Tell him/her — Yes, yes, it’s possible that I’m not so good at this (yet), but I think I have an idea of what to do next. Let’s just try it.”
Remember that your fixed-mindset persona was born to protect you and keep you safe.
But it has developed some very limiting ways of doing that. So educate it in the new growth mindset ways that it can support you: in taking on challenges and sticking to them, bouncing back from failure, and helping and supporting others to grow. Understand the persona’s point of view, but slowly teach it a different way of thinking, and take it with you on your journey to a growth mindset.
For your growth mindset to bear fruit, you need to keep setting goals—goals for growth.
Then, as you contemplate the day in front of you, try to ask yourself these questions.
- What are the opportunities for learning and growth today? For myself? For the people around me?
- When, where, and how will I embark on my plan?
- When, where, and how will I act on my new plan?
- When you succeed, don’t forget to ask yourself: What do I have to do to maintain and continue the growth?
“You either go one way or the other.” — Alex Rodriguez. You might as well be the one deciding the direction.
Image credits: Mindset by Carol Dweck